Who knew hockey in July could create so much excitement? A simple scrimmage ended up being a nearly sold out event at the First Niagara Center on Friday night. The Sabres announced an official attendance of 17,115 (a franchise record) and also streamed a live scoreboard feed for those who couldn’t not attend.
As expected, the main focus was Jack Eichel, entering the night. But as the event progressed, fans got the chance to see some other players surprise them as Team Blue earned a 5-2 victory.
One of the best performances of the night came from Sam Reinhart, who posted two goals and an assist. When Reinhart was sent to the WHL last year, general manager Tim Murray stated that he wanted him to work on his strength so that he could compete at the NHL level. Too often he was getting pushed off the puck.
“It took a while to hit the net,” Reinhart said. It’s mid-July. But being able to put a few in, that was nice.”
Eichel showed flashes of brilliance with the puck throughout the night as he was able to use his size and speed to maneuver around defenders. He did not match Reinhart statistically but his poise with the puck and high talent level were on display. In his first penalty shot attempt, he was foiled but showed off his elite stick handling abilities.
He admitted in his post game interview ” To be honest, if i could have had it over, I probably would have shot it.” Eichel is known for having a great shot but he also made sure not to sell goaltender Jonas Johansson short as he stated “It was a good save by him and he read it pretty well.”
Not to be overlooked is Goaltender Jason Kasdorf, who looked very composed in net and made some great saves for Team Blue. He is what many people considered a “throw in” when the Sabres traded for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian. If he can continue to show promise, he could prove to be a valuable piece going forward whether its in Rochester or Buffalo.
Other notable players include Justin Bailey, Jake McCabe, William Carrier, and Hudson Fasching. Bailey, a Buffalo native, got on the board early on as he caught the goaltender off guard and roofed the puck from down on one knee.
“This was one of the most fun games I’ve played in. These fans…I’m not surprised being from here.” – Justin Bailey
McCabe also got on the score sheet. His pro experience was evident as he looked very comfortable making plays. Carrier and Fasching seemed to really click with Reinhart as that was easily the best line last night.
Josh Chapman and Justin Kea even dropped the gloves to get the fans on their feet and the crowd loved it.
The record attendance shows the excitement that surrounds this franchise right now. It’s the kind of hype this city has not seen in almost ten years when the team made it to back to back eastern conference championships.
“It felt like more of a playoff atmosphere than a scrimmage.” – Dan Bylsma
If you missed the scrimmage or just want to check out the highlights again, you can see them below:
All in all it was a very successful night for the franchise and leads to much anticipation for training camp.
It just goes to show that its not just the team improving, but the franchise as a whole. With that being said, expectations are also on the rise and fans got there first glance at the future last night. Now that we have seen the prospects in a game setting, does it change your expectations for the upcoming season?